Insight on sankharas

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Anna Kamara, modified 10 Months ago.

Insight on sankharas

Posts: 14 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
Hello there,

I come from Goenka tradition and I'm now practicing while studying the satipatana sutta and I try to have direct experience of the different concepts in it such as the 7 factors, the noble truths and the 3 characteristics (I don't think it's part of the mahasatipatthana though) even if Goenka only insists on impermanence/annicca.
And now the 5 aggregates. I would like to gain insight on sankharas. Because I can clearly see Rupa, vedana, sanna, but sankhara and vijnana are not clear. I have the tendency to mix up vijnana with sanna and I don't see clearly sankhara. It seems that I'm not able to grasp the arising of a sankhara.
I'm open to other techniques. So any advices to get insight on sankharas?
Martin, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 296 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Maybe work on vijnana, which is easier to get a handle on, and then everything that is left over is sankharas. It's lazy, I know, but it kind of works.
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Jim Smith, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 1001 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Anna Kamara:
Hello there,

I come from Goenka tradition and I'm now practicing while studying the satipatana sutta and I try to have direct experience of the different concepts in it such as the 7 factors, the noble truths and the 3 characteristics (I don't think it's part of the mahasatipatthana though) even if Goenka only insists on impermanence/annicca.
And now the 5 aggregates. I would like to gain insight on sankharas. Because I can clearly see Rupa, vedana, sanna, but sankhara and vijnana are not clear. I have the tendency to mix up vijnana with sanna and I don't see clearly sankhara. It seems that I'm not able to grasp the arising of a sankhara.
I'm open to other techniques. So any advices to get insight on sankharas?

One of the things we have a word for in English that belongs in sankharas is "emotional baggage".

But I also have a lot of trouble with the meanings of the words and also with the number of categories. There is a good reason for this. The Buddha used the term "aggregates" (piles or heaps) instead of "categories" because they are collections of dissimilar things. That is why it is hard to understand. We want nice simple easily defined categories that we can understand and remember in one word - but the complexity of reality does not conform to our desires.

I look at this article when I want to understand the orthodox explantion of the aggregates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha#Description
...
...
"mental formations" (Skt. संस्कार saṃskāra, Pāli सङ्खार saṅkhāra, Tib. 'du-byed): "constructing activities",[13] "conditioned things", "volition", "karmic activities"; all types of mental imprints and conditioning triggered by an object.[14][15][note 6] Includes any process that makes a person initiate action or act.[13]

"consciousness" (Skt. विज्ञान vijñāna, Pāli विञ्ञाण viññāṇa, Tib. rnam-par-shes-pa): "discrimination" or "discernment"[note 7]. Awareness of an object and discrimination of its components and aspects, and is of six types, states Peter Harvey.[13] The Buddhist literature discusses this skandha as,
In the Nikayas/Āgamas: cognizance,[16][note 8] that which discerns.[17][note 9]
In the Abhidhamma: a series of rapidly changing interconnected discrete acts of cognizance.[note 10]
In some Mahayana sources: the base that supports all experience.[note 11]

Because they are heaps of dissimilar things, they are hard to understand and hard to remember.

So I worked out my own aggregates. They don't have to match the orthodox definitions of aggregates because they are aggregates (collections of dissimilar things) not categories. This is good to do because it will make it personal and more meaningful.

Shinzen Young gives a good analogy to explain the aggregates. He says if a TV screen is displaying something white and you look closely at it with a magnifying glass you will not see anything white, you will only see red green and blue pixels.

If you look at self closely you will only see aggregates.


Look closely at self (everything you consider "me" and "mine"). What do you see? 

This is in part what I see when I look at everything that is me or mine. You might come up with different elements:

Body,
 brain,
Possessions, other people my friends family etc, my groups I like (sports teams etc), groups I am a member of (ie Americans)
Mind:
  Mental activity: thoughts, emotions, impulses etc
  Sensory input: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, vibration, rough/smooth, hard/soft, temperature, body sensations including body sensations that accompany emotions.
Concepts: I am an entity, a person, an owner (my car), a haver (my friends), a doer, a controller, a thinker, feeler, (just examples: a student a teacher, and employee a boss, a spouse, parent etc etc)

(You can study the orthodox definitions if you want to make sure you have everything covered.)

But the full term is not "the five aggregates" the full term is "the five aggregates of clinging"

All those things that make up self (things that are me or mine) are the things that we cling to that cause us suffering.

Can you let go of all those things?

Ouch!

The pain of letting go is really the pain of not wanting to let go, and it is similar to the pain of actual loss.

I find just contemplating letting go is hard. It produces a distinct feeling.

When I examine this feeling it, I see is the same as the common factor found all forms of dukkha. "I don't like this.", "I don't want this.", and more or less fear.

By recognizing this feeling in unpleasant emotions that arise during the day I recognize it as the feeling of letting go, or a reminder that I should let go.

I remind myself, "This emotion is showing me an attachment, I should let go" I notice that common factor in all dukkha - it makes it easier to bear because it is familiar.

Letting go will set you free.

Awakening is the process of letting go of attachments to self.

Practicing this way in daily life with dukkha as it arises is, in my opinion, more important than understanding the orthodox definitions of the aggregates. If you want to find everything that belongs in the aggregates, you can work backward from your emotions to see what you are clinging to.

The Buddha understood the pain of letting go. That is why he taught meditation and mindfulness techniques that help to us to bear the pain of unpleasant emotions.

Samatha meditation produces tranquility and gladdens the mind. Jhanas produce bliss. Metta is really a lot like jhana. Mindfulness, as Daniel says, turns emotions into "wispy little things"

Samatha meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system which turns off stress.

Mindfulness deactivates the default mode network in the brain which has the effect of greatly reducing unpleasant emotions.

Jhana and Metta meditation cause the brain to produce neurotransmitters and endorphins, and lower levels of stress hormones.
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Jim Smith, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 1001 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Jim Smith:



Shinzen Young gives a good analogy to explain the aggregates. He says if a TV screen is displaying something white and you look closely at it with a magnifying glass you will not see anything white, you will only see red green and blue pixels.

If you look at self closely you will only see aggregates.


Look closely at self (everything you consider "me" and "mine"). What do you see? 

This is in part what I see when I look at everything that is me or mine. You might come up with different elements:

Body,
 brain,
Possessions, other people my friends family etc, my groups I like (sports teams etc), groups I am a member of (ie Americans)
Mind:
  Mental activity: thoughts, emotions, impulses etc
  Sensory input: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, vibration, rough/smooth, hard/soft, temperature, body sensations including body sensations that accompany emotions.
Concepts: I am an entity, a person, an owner (my car), a haver (my friends), a doer, a controller, a thinker, feeler, (just examples: a student a teacher, and employee a boss, a spouse, parent etc etc)



Look closely at self and understand everything you consider "me" and "mine".

When you experience a egoistic reaction, ask  yourself where in those aggregates is the entity that is offended, insulted, threatened, losing, wrong, inferior, rejected,  etc?

Is a thought an entity? Is an emotion an entity? Is a brain cell an entity? Is a concept an entity?

Everything that can be considered self, if looked at closely, is made up of things that are clearly not any type of being or entity.
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Anna Kamara, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 14 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
Hello guys and thanks for your responses.

So I got back to my observation while sitting and I finally saw quite clearly the arising of a sankhara. Actually I saw it quite a long time ago but I forgot lol as I stopped my practice for a while after dark night.
So, I was feeling a discomfort (vedana) then I became aware (vijnana) of the sensation, saw sanna while recognizing the sensation "oh it's a discomfort" then the craving for changing my posture : this is the sankhara, the volition just before you act on the sensation. I don't think it is more complicated than that actually.

What I don't get is how a sankhara is the origin of vijnana in the Pali text paticcasamupada. It is said that consciousness arises from ignorance and sankharas and I cannot see it clearly. Found an interesting article to share though :

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_43.html
agnostic, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 2017 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I struggle with sankhara because it's used in different contexts to mean different things. From a practical perspective I like Ajahn Maha Bua's description in Arahattamagga Arahattaphala (p54 here):

AS A WHOLE, THE WELLSPRING of thought and imagination is called sankhãra khandha. Each thought, each inkling of an idea ripples briefly through the mind and then ceases. In and of themselves, these mental ripples have no specific meaning. They merely flash briefly into awareness and then cease without a trace. Only when saññã khandha takes them up do they become thoughts and ideas with a specific meaning and content. Saññã khandha is the mental aggregate of memory, recognition and interpretation. Saññã takes fragments of thought and interprets and expands them, making assumptions about their significance, and thus turning them into issues. Sankhãra then perpetuates these issues in the form of incessant, discursive thinking. Saññã, however, is the principal instigator. As soon as sankhãra flashes up briefly, saññã immediately grasps it and defines its existence as this or that—agitating everything. These two are the mental faculties that cause all the trouble. Together they spin tales—of fortune and of woe—and then interpret them to be the reality of oneself. Relying on memory to identify everything that arises in awareness, saññã defines them and gives them meaning.

Sankhãras arise and cease with distinct beginnings and endings, like flashes of lightning or fireflies blinking on and off. When observed closely, saññã khandha is far more subtle than sankhãra khandha. Bursting into awareness, sankhãras are the basic building blocks of thought. Saññã, on the other hand, is not experienced as flashes of thought. When the mind is perfectly still and the khandhas are very quiet, we can clearly feel the manner in which each khandha arises. Saññã will slowly spread out, permeating the citta like ink moving through blotting paper, expanding slowly until it forms a mental picture. Following saññã’s lead, the sankhãras, that are constantly arising, begin to form a picture and create a story around it that will then take on a life of its own. Thoughts about this or that begin with saññã recognizing and interpreting the ripplings of sankhãra, molding them into a recognizable image which sankhãra then continuously elaborates. Both of these mental factors are natural phenomena. They arise spontaneously, and are distinct from the awareness that knows them.

My interpretation of this is that the sankhara are the "basic particles" of sensory experience which you can observe when the mind is really quiet, the same thing which some people call vibrations or mind moments. I experience it as a kind of brownian motion, random pulses of energy which haven't yet been aggregated into forms attributed to the various sense doors by sanna (perception). It feels like you are sensing the actual electrical activity or neurons firing in the brain, but that might be totally bogus. I've had the experience after a cessation (or at least what I thought might have been a cessation) where I saw individual pulses (sankhara) starting up again and coalescing and I remember at the time thinking it was like a cloud of ink spreading out (this was before I read Maha Bua's description).

When it comes to paticcasamupada though, SN12.2 clearly defines sankhara as kayasankhara (body contionier) + vacisankhara (speech conditioner) + cittasankhara (mind conditioner) and if you look at the definition of those in MN44 you get:

kayasankhara = breathing (conditions the body)
vacisankhara = vitakkavicara (applied and sustained thought, which condition speech)
cittasankhara = sanna  & vedana (perception & feeling condition the mind)

It gets pretty convoluted, because sanna also appears in link 4 as one of the nama and vedana is in both link 4 and link 7. I've heard it said that the 12 link DO is an amalgam of older simpler formulae. My practical experience, which may be way off base, is as follows. From contact (link 6) onwards it's pretty clear. Working backwards from there, clearly you need senses (link 5) for contact to happen. You need a mind & body (link 4) to host the senses. You need consciousness (link 3) to be aware of having a mind & body. If you interpret sankhara to be particles of experience then I can see how they are a condition for consciousness (they are the most basic things you can be conscious of). The only way I could see ignorance as being a condition for such sankhara though would be in a very vague nondual sense where ignorance just means having some kind of dualistic viewpoint which attributes a significance to random phenomental activity. Again, totally non sutta.
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Anna Kamara, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 14 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
agnostic:
I struggle with sankhara because it's used in different contexts to mean different things. From a practical perspective I like Ajahn Maha Bua's description in Arahattamagga Arahattaphala (p54 here):

AS A WHOLE, THE WELLSPRING of thought and imagination is called sankhãra khandha. Each thought, each inkling of an idea ripples briefly through the mind and then ceases. In and of themselves, these mental ripples have no specific meaning. They merely flash briefly into awareness and then cease without a trace. Only when saññã khandha takes them up do they become thoughts and ideas with a specific meaning and content. Saññã khandha is the mental aggregate of memory, recognition and interpretation. Saññã takes fragments of thought and interprets and expands them, making assumptions about their significance, and thus turning them into issues. Sankhãra then perpetuates these issues in the form of incessant, discursive thinking. Saññã, however, is the principal instigator. As soon as sankhãra flashes up briefly, saññã immediately grasps it and defines its existence as this or that—agitating everything. These two are the mental faculties that cause all the trouble. Together they spin tales—of fortune and of woe—and then interpret them to be the reality of oneself. Relying on memory to identify everything that arises in awareness, saññã defines them and gives them meaning.

Sankhãras arise and cease with distinct beginnings and endings, like flashes of lightning or fireflies blinking on and off. When observed closely, saññã khandha is far more subtle than sankhãra khandha. Bursting into awareness, sankhãras are the basic building blocks of thought. Saññã, on the other hand, is not experienced as flashes of thought. When the mind is perfectly still and the khandhas are very quiet, we can clearly feel the manner in which each khandha arises. Saññã will slowly spread out, permeating the citta like ink moving through blotting paper, expanding slowly until it forms a mental picture. Following saññã’s lead, the sankhãras, that are constantly arising, begin to form a picture and create a story around it that will then take on a life of its own. Thoughts about this or that begin with saññã recognizing and interpreting the ripplings of sankhãra, molding them into a recognizable image which sankhãra then continuously elaborates. Both of these mental factors are natural phenomena. They arise spontaneously, and are distinct from the awareness that knows them.

My interpretation of this is that the sankhara are the "basic particles" of sensory experience which you can observe when the mind is really quiet, the same thing which some people call vibrations or mind moments. I experience it as a kind of brownian motion, random pulses of energy which haven't yet been aggregated into forms attributed to the various sense doors by sanna (perception). It feels like you are sensing the actual electrical activity or neurons firing in the brain, but that might be totally bogus. I've had the experience after a cessation (or at least what I thought might have been a cessation) where I saw individual pulses (sankhara) starting up again and coalescing and I remember at the time thinking it was like a cloud of ink spreading out (this was before I read Maha Bua's description).

When it comes to paticcasamupada though, SN12.2 clearly defines sankhara as kayasankhara (body contionier) + vacisankhara (speech conditioner) + cittasankhara (mind conditioner) and if you look at the definition of those in MN44 you get:

kayasankhara = breathing (conditions the body)
vacisankhara = vitakkavicara (applied and sustained thought, which condition speech)
cittasankhara = sanna  & vedana (perception & feeling condition the mind)

It gets pretty convoluted, because sanna also appears in link 4 as one of the nama and vedana is in both link 4 and link 7. I've heard it said that the 12 link DO is an amalgam of older simpler formulae. My practical experience, which may be way off base, is as follows. From contact (link 6) onwards it's pretty clear. Working backwards from there, clearly you need senses (link 5) for contact to happen. You need a mind & body (link 4) to host the senses. You need consciousness (link 3) to be aware of having a mind & body. If you interpret sankhara to be particles of experience then I can see how they are a condition for consciousness (they are the most basic things you can be conscious of). The only way I could see ignorance as being a condition for such sankhara though would be in a very vague nondual sense where ignorance just means having some kind of dualistic viewpoint which attributes a significance to random phenomental activity. Again, totally non sutta.

Thank u much for your response. That helps. I used to think about sankharas as seeds.  Really liked the description of the citta expanding like ink on paper to form a mental picture under the impulsion of sanna. very visual and that hepls to grasp it more clearly while practicing.
 
thank you for sharing your experience too. Your description of sankharas as "basic particles" makes me think about what Goenka calls kalapas at a bodily level and that we can clearly feel during the arising and passing stage i guess..
What can be difficult to understand is that as people with materialistic culture, we could have the tendency to think the other way around compared to that of the dependent origination: as you say from contact it is understandable. The thing is that contact is not the cause but the effect which is quite difficult to grasp. I guess we need to experience it directly to understand clearly how the Universe was created from ignorance...
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Anna Kamara, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 14 Join Date: 10/13/20 Recent Posts
When it comes to paticcasamupada though, SN12.2 clearly defines sankhara as kayasankhara (body contionier) + vacisankhara (speech conditioner) + cittasankhara (mind conditioner) and if you look at the definition of those in MN44 you get:

kayasankhara = breathing (conditions the body)
vacisankhara = vitakkavicara (applied and sustained thought, which condition speech)
cittasankhara = sanna  & vedana (perception & feeling condition the mind)

It's also very intersting that in the link sankhara is translated as choices. "ignorance is a condition for choices"  this is fascinating.. emoticon 
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Nicky2, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 51 Join Date: 4/18/20 Recent Posts
Anna Kamara:

It's also very intersting that in the link sankhara is translated as choices. "ignorance is a condition for choices"  this is fascinating.. emoticon 

Choices is wrong. 

Choices or volition does not occur in Dependent Origination until the namarupa 4th condtition, as follows in the link:
And what are name and form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention. This is called name.

When a spontaneous ignorant formation arises out of your mind, this is not volitional or not a choice. 

It is at a later time when you make a choice to either follow or reject the ignorant thought formation. 

For example, you start to feel bored or restless and the spontaneous thought arises out of your mind: "I want to eat ice-cream". This thought is a sankhara. But then after experiencing this thought with consciousness, you reflect: "Ice cream is bad for me. I must lose weight and I must keep my cholesterol low". Thus you later make a choice to reject the ignorant ice-cream sankhara. 

You are not making any "choices" at the 2nd link called sankhara. You are making choices at the 4th link called nama-rupa after your mind is conscious of those ignorant thoughts. 

emoticon


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Nicky2, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 51 Join Date: 4/18/20 Recent Posts
Anna Kamara:
What I don't get is how a sankhara is the origin of vijnana in the Pali text paticcasamupada. It is said that consciousness arises from ignorance and sankharas and I cannot see it clearly. Found an interesting article to share though :

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_43.html

I wouldn't follow Bhikkhu Bodhi. Instead, I recommend to follow the guru Agnostic. emoticon

When it comes to paticcasamupada though, SN12.2 clearly defines sankhara as kayasankhara (body conditioner) + vacisankhara (speech conditioner) + cittasankhara (mind conditioner) and if you look at the definition of those in MN44 you get:

kayasankhara = breathing (conditions the body)
vacisankhara = vitakkavicara (applied and sustained thought, which condition speech)
cittasankhara = sanna  & vedana (perception & feeling condition the mind)

In summary, consciousness does not exist independent of or prior to sense objects. The scriptures say: 

Dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises; dependent on the ear and sounds, ear-consciousness arises; dependent on the nose and odours, nose-consciousness arises; dependent on the tongue and flavours, tongue-consciousness arises; dependent on the body and tangibles, body-consciousness arises; dependent on the mind and mind-objects, mind-consciousness arises.

https://suttacentral.net/mn148/en/bodhi


Again, the scriptures say: 
Were someone to say, 'I will describe a coming, a going, a passing away, an arising, a growth, an increase, or a proliferation of consciousness apart from form, from feeling, from perception, from fabrications,' that would be impossible.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.053.than.htm
l

Again, the scriptures say:
Good, bhikkhus. It is good that you understand the Dhamma taught by me thus. For in many ways I have stated consciousness to be dependently arisen, since without a condition there is no origination of consciousness. 

https://suttacentral.net/mn38/en/bodhi

Therefore, for consciousness to arise or function, first there must be an object to stimulate the arising of consciousness. 

The internal objects that stimulate the arising/functioning of consciousness are breathing (kaya sankhara), thoughts (vaci sankhara) and perceptions & feelings (citta sankhara), which are in turn stimulated by ignorance and what are called the "asava" that flow out of ignorance.  

Note: the word "sankhara" above in the 2nd link of dependent origination does not refer to the sankhara aggregate. Sankhara above has a different meaning. Sankhara (similar to dhamma) has many meanings. This link may help: 
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5862820

Also, Thanissaro's book here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/shapeofsuffering.pdf pages 3 to 6 have excellent examples to follow. 

emoticon
 
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Nicky2, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 51 Join Date: 4/18/20 Recent Posts
Anna Kamara:

So, I was feeling a discomfort (vedana) then I became aware (vijnana) of the sensation, saw sanna while recognizing the sensation "oh it's a discomfort" then the craving for changing my posture : this is the sankhara, the volition just before you act on the sensation. I don't think it is more complicated than that actually.

What I don't get is how a sankhara is the origin of vijnana in the Pali text paticcasamupada. It is said that consciousness arises from ignorance and sankharas and I cannot see it clearly. Found an interesting article to share though :

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_43.html

Sankhara is many things. From the above: 

1. The mere short recognition of "discomfort" is sanna

2. But the longer sentence: "Oh, its discomfort" is sankhara because the mind is thinking about the feeling of discomfort. 

3. Then the craving to change posture is also sankhara

4. The volition is also sankhara

5. If the mind gets angry or afraid, this is also sankhara. Any defilement is a sankhara

6. If the mind starts to hallucinate or have dreams, these are also sankhara

While there are one or two scriptures from thousands that say 'sankhara' is 'volition', in reality, sankhara is much more than merely volition. 

Take care with Bhikkhu Bodhi, who appears obsessed with sankhara as volition. His common translation "volitional formations" generally has no equivalent in the Pali of the scripture translated.  emoticon
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Nicky2, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 51 Join Date: 4/18/20 Recent Posts
Anna Kamara:
Hello there,

I come from Goenka tradition and I'm now practicing while studying the satipatana sutta and I try to have direct experience of the different concepts in it such as the 7 factors, the noble truths and the 3 characteristics (I don't think it's part of the mahasatipatthana though) even if Goenka only insists on impermanence/annicca.
And now the 5 aggregates. I would like to gain insight on sankharas. Because I can clearly see Rupa, vedana, sanna, but sankhara and vijnana are not clear. I have the tendency to mix up vijnana with sanna and I don't see clearly sankhara. It seems that I'm not able to grasp the arising of a sankhara.
I'm open to other techniques. So any advices to get insight on sankharas?

1. While his retreats were a wonderful gift, Goenka often used terminology inaccurately therefore always be vigilant here. 

2. The scriputures can mention impermanence alone (e.g. step 13 of Anapanasati Sutta) however, when they do, they generally mean the 3 characteristics because the scriptures clearly say: "that which is impermanent is unsatisfactory; that which is unsatisfactory is not-self" (example https://suttacentral.net/sn22.15/en/bodhi ).  

3. Vinnana & sanna are very close. Also, they are cojoined & cannot exist without eachother (MN 43). Vinnana simply refers to the awareness that operates via the sense organs that facilitates seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. Sanna refers to the distinctions impinged/discerned from & recognition of sense objects. For example, to distinguish the difference between & recognise the colors red & blue is sanna. 

4. As for sankhara, as i explained above, as an aggregate (but not as the 2nd link of dependent origination) sankhara  refers to defilements (urges/moods of greed, hatred, delusion), cravings, intentions, thoughts, mixed emotions, mental images, etc. 

5. Also, the "stress" accumulated & felt in the physical  body, which Goenka highlights, are generally sankhara

6. It seems Goenka many have at times confused vedana (feelings) for sankhara (accumulations). Feelings are pleasure & pain. But the stress that builds and is felt in the physical body from worry, anger, lust, greed, excessive thinking, excessive excitement, excess work, etc, is also sankhara.

emoticon 
agnostic, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 2017 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Nicky!

Why is kaya sankhara defined as breathing only? That is, excluding other body “objects” of which one can be conscious (e.g. heart beating, blood pumping, proprioception of other organs). Is it because breathing “conditions” the body? If so, in DO it seems there’s a kind of blurring between the “object” meaning of sankhara and the “conditioner” meaning found in for example the Anapanasati Sutta.

In addition to the more complex types of sankhara, Maha Bua seems to refer to the elementary particles or vibrations of experience as sankhara as well ("inklings" of ideas, "basic building blocks of thought", "flashes", "ripples", "blinking on and off"). Is there any textual support for this, or it's more of a practitioner based observation?

Thanks,
Guru Agnostic
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Nicky2, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 51 Join Date: 4/18/20 Recent Posts
agnostic:
Hi Nicky!

Why is kaya sankhara defined as breathing only? That is, excluding other body “objects” of which one can be conscious (e.g. heart beating, blood pumping, proprioception of other organs). Is it because breathing “conditions” the body? If so, in DO it seems there’s a kind of blurring between the “object” meaning of sankhara and the “conditioner” meaning found in for example the Anapanasati Sutta.

In addition to the more complex types of sankhara, Maha Bua seems to refer to the elementary particles or vibrations of experience as sankhara as well ("inklings" of ideas, "basic building blocks of thought", "flashes", "ripples", "blinking on and off"). Is there any textual support for this, or it's more of a practitioner based observation?

Thanks,
Guru Agnostic

Yes. Breathing “conditions” the body. Heart beating, blood pumping, proprioception of other organs, etc, would be included in the earth, wind, fire & water elements of nama-rupa. Refer to MN 62 for description of these four elements. 

I think what Maha Bua has said is from observation (which I would agree with). There are many layers of sankhara, some subtle (such as 2nd link) and some gross (such as craving, atttachment, etc). 

emoticon
agnostic, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 2017 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Thanks Nicky, I think I'm finally starting to understand it emoticon 

It would be nice if the other rupa elements were included at link 2 because they are also ignorant/pre-conscious.

Anna, you should also check out Nicky's longer post on DO here. There are so many competing interpretations of DO, but his is closest to the suttas IMO and is the only one which really explains why certain elements (sanna, vedana) are duplicated at links 2 and 4. As he says, the key is that intention occurs at link 4, which is how you choose to react to the ignorant sankhara and determines how the rest of the chain does or does not unfold.

Maybe Bodhi translates sankhara as "volitional formations" because some (all?) of them are the residue of past volitional choices which occurred at link 4 in prior cycles?
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terry, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 1743 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
Nicky2:
Anna Kamara:
Hello there,

I come from Goenka tradition and I'm now practicing while studying the satipatana sutta and I try to have direct experience of the different concepts in it such as the 7 factors, the noble truths and the 3 characteristics (I don't think it's part of the mahasatipatthana though) even if Goenka only insists on impermanence/annicca.
And now the 5 aggregates. I would like to gain insight on sankharas. Because I can clearly see Rupa, vedana, sanna, but sankhara and vijnana are not clear. I have the tendency to mix up vijnana with sanna and I don't see clearly sankhara. It seems that I'm not able to grasp the arising of a sankhara.
I'm open to other techniques. So any advices to get insight on sankharas?

1. While his retreats were a wonderful gift, Goenka often used terminology inaccurately therefore always be vigilant here. 

2. The scriputures can mention impermanence alone (e.g. step 13 of Anapanasati Sutta) however, when they do, they generally mean the 3 characteristics because the scriptures clearly say: "that which is impermanent is unsatisfactory; that which is unsatisfactory is not-self" (example https://suttacentral.net/sn22.15/en/bodhi ).  

3. Vinnana & sanna are very close. Also, they are cojoined & cannot exist without eachother (MN 43). Vinnana simply refers to the awareness that operates via the sense organs that facilitates seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. Sanna refers to the distinctions impinged/discerned from & recognition of sense objects. For example, to distinguish the difference between & recognise the colors red & blue is sanna. 

4. As for sankhara, as i explained above, as an aggregate (but not as the 2nd link of dependent origination) sankhara  refers to defilements (urges/moods of greed, hatred, delusion), cravings, intentions, thoughts, mixed emotions, mental images, etc. 

5. Also, the "stress" accumulated & felt in the physical  body, which Goenka highlights, are generally sankhara

6. It seems Goenka many have at times confused vedana (feelings) for sankhara (accumulations). Feelings are pleasure & pain. But the stress that builds and is felt in the physical body from worry, anger, lust, greed, excessive thinking, excessive excitement, excess work, etc, is also sankhara.

emoticon 

   you make it sound like sankharas are a bad thing...

t
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terry, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 1743 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
terry:
Nicky2:
Anna Kamara:
Hello there,

I come from Goenka tradition and I'm now practicing while studying the satipatana sutta and I try to have direct experience of the different concepts in it such as the 7 factors, the noble truths and the 3 characteristics (I don't think it's part of the mahasatipatthana though) even if Goenka only insists on impermanence/annicca.
And now the 5 aggregates. I would like to gain insight on sankharas. Because I can clearly see Rupa, vedana, sanna, but sankhara and vijnana are not clear. I have the tendency to mix up vijnana with sanna and I don't see clearly sankhara. It seems that I'm not able to grasp the arising of a sankhara.
I'm open to other techniques. So any advices to get insight on sankharas?

1. While his retreats were a wonderful gift, Goenka often used terminology inaccurately therefore always be vigilant here. 

2. The scriputures can mention impermanence alone (e.g. step 13 of Anapanasati Sutta) however, when they do, they generally mean the 3 characteristics because the scriptures clearly say: "that which is impermanent is unsatisfactory; that which is unsatisfactory is not-self" (example https://suttacentral.net/sn22.15/en/bodhi ).  

3. Vinnana & sanna are very close. Also, they are cojoined & cannot exist without eachother (MN 43). Vinnana simply refers to the awareness that operates via the sense organs that facilitates seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. Sanna refers to the distinctions impinged/discerned from & recognition of sense objects. For example, to distinguish the difference between & recognise the colors red & blue is sanna. 

4. As for sankhara, as i explained above, as an aggregate (but not as the 2nd link of dependent origination) sankhara  refers to defilements (urges/moods of greed, hatred, delusion), cravings, intentions, thoughts, mixed emotions, mental images, etc. 

5. Also, the "stress" accumulated & felt in the physical  body, which Goenka highlights, are generally sankhara

6. It seems Goenka many have at times confused vedana (feelings) for sankhara (accumulations). Feelings are pleasure & pain. But the stress that builds and is felt in the physical body from worry, anger, lust, greed, excessive thinking, excessive excitement, excess work, etc, is also sankhara.

emoticon 

   you make it sound like sankharas are a bad thing...

t


from the majjhima nikaya, trans horner:






62. Greater Discourse on an Exhortation to Rahula


Setting

Thus have I heard: at one time the Lord was staying near Sāvatthī in the Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. Then the Lord, having dressed in the morning, taking his bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for almsfood. The venerable Rāhula, having also dressed in the morning, taking his bowl and robe followed close after the Lord.

Contemplating the Five Aggregates - Insight

Then the Lord, having looked round, addressed the venerable Rāhula, saying: “Whatever, Rāhula, is material shape, past, future, present, subjective or objective, gross or subtle, low or excellent, distant or near, all material shape should be seen as it really is by means of perfect intuitive wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self.’” “Only material shape, Lord, only material shape, Wellfarer?” “Material shape, Rāhula, and feeling, Rāhula, and perception, Rāhula, and the habitual tendencies, Rāhula, and consciousness, Rāhula.”
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terry, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 1743 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
Anna Kamara:
Hello there,

I come from Goenka tradition and I'm now practicing while studying the satipatana sutta and I try to have direct experience of the different concepts in it such as the 7 factors, the noble truths and the 3 characteristics (I don't think it's part of the mahasatipatthana though) even if Goenka only insists on impermanence/annicca.
And now the 5 aggregates. I would like to gain insight on sankharas. Because I can clearly see Rupa, vedana, sanna, but sankhara and vijnana are not clear. I have the tendency to mix up vijnana with sanna and I don't see clearly sankhara. It seems that I'm not able to grasp the arising of a sankhara.
I'm open to other techniques. So any advices to get insight on sankharas?


aloha anna,

   In the zen tradition sankharas are often seen as "habitual tendencies." This heap takes in much of what we know as character, good and bad. Virtue and vice. As ones habitual tendencies go, so goes ones life.

   With vijnana enters precepts. Bodhisattva vows. Formal meditation. Healthy diets and so forth. We are aware of our tendencies and some are reinforced and some fade away, as we adapt to conditions.

terry
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terry, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Insight on sankharas

Posts: 1743 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
terry:
Anna Kamara:
Hello there,

I come from Goenka tradition and I'm now practicing while studying the satipatana sutta and I try to have direct experience of the different concepts in it such as the 7 factors, the noble truths and the 3 characteristics (I don't think it's part of the mahasatipatthana though) even if Goenka only insists on impermanence/annicca.
And now the 5 aggregates. I would like to gain insight on sankharas. Because I can clearly see Rupa, vedana, sanna, but sankhara and vijnana are not clear. I have the tendency to mix up vijnana with sanna and I don't see clearly sankhara. It seems that I'm not able to grasp the arising of a sankhara.
I'm open to other techniques. So any advices to get insight on sankharas?


aloha anna,

   In the zen tradition sankharas are often seen as "habitual tendencies." This heap takes in much of what we know as character, good and bad. Virtue and vice. As ones habitual tendencies go, so goes ones life.

   With vijnana enters precepts. Bodhisattva vows. Formal meditation. Healthy diets and so forth. We are aware of our tendencies and some are reinforced and some fade away, as we adapt to conditions.

terry



"Character is destiny."

~heraclitus